Friday, January 20, 2012

Things They Should Invent Words For

We've all heard the expression "privatizing profit and socializing risk". The phenomenon I want to make a word for is similar, but I can't seem to structure an analogous expression. It's a sort of socialization of the requirement for expertise, but not precisely.

One example of the phenomenon is pensions. They seem to be moving away from defined benefit pensions, where experts manage it for you, to defined contribution pensions, where they give everyone a little bit of money and tell them to go manage it themselves.

Another major example comes from from job searching. Based on what my parents and grandparents tell me, employers used to be willing to hire unskilled labour or workers with a lot of potential but no particular experience in the area (and they tended to look upon university degrees as potential), and then let them learn on the job or train them up so they could eventually move up the ladder and do better-paying work. But in my own job hunting experience, I find that most employers want workers who already have the very specific skills and experience required for the position - even when it's something easily learnable like proprietary software. And, on top of that, employers have been known to reject applicants who have education that isn't strictly required for the job.

This also reminds me of how every once in a while you hear employers in the news saying that they can't find enough skilled workers, but these complaints about the lack of skilled workers seem to be reaching my ears far more readily than information about what kind of skills which employers need, and how to go about acquiring these skills, and how to figure out which of those jobs you'd be a good fit for rather than picking some skilled trade at random.

Anyway, the general concept I want to coin a word for is this sort of increasing expectation over time that individuals who are not involved in organizations or fields of expertise are independently responsible for developing knowledge of the needs of those organizations or the skills of those fields of expertise, whereas historically the larger organizations were more willing to make the effort to integrate and orient people.

I'm not explaining this as well as I should be. Coinages and better explanations welcome.

11 comments:

Lori said...

In the case of pensions (and bennies in general) there has been a term coined, by one Jacob S. Hacker, and it's the title of a book: Risk Shift. Now he's on the talk show circuit touting another book, Winner Take All.

In terms of "experienced only need apply," when combined with the cry of "there are no skilled workers," "hypocrisy" is a perfectly apropos word for it.

Today "integrating and orienting" people tends to be referred to as "mentoring." That fact that there's no longer a tacit assumption that it's part and parcel of the process of staffing a firm owes (in my opinion) to an overcrowded job market, due mainly to automation, and also to a lesser extent, in first world countries, to emerging competition with third-world social and economic expectations. In a more competitive J.O.B. market (especially at entry level), mentoring is treated as more of a privilege and less of an expectation. I guess you could call it "expectation creep" or "shifting goalposts."

laura k said...

You explained it perfectly. I'm trying to think of other examples.

laura k said...

"I find that most employers want workers who already have the very specific skills and experience required for the position - even when it's something easily learnable like proprietary software. And, on top of that, employers have been known to reject applicants who have education that isn't strictly required for the job."

I remember reading that you've not gotten jobs because you were overqualified. I was horrified. That hasn't happened to me (yet), and the field I work in is still willing to train on specifics, fortunately.

What I do see is tons of people working in so-called internships, a/k/a slave labour. These internship positions are supposed to teach them about the field and help them get experience. When I graduated uni, those were called entry-level jobs!

These companies have zero incentive to ever hire anyone in an entry-level position, because there is a steady stream of "interns" - unpaid college and university grads - to fill those positions.

I've wanted to blog about this for a long time, your post gives me more ideas.

impudent strumpet said...

My shower gave me another, non-employment-related example this morning: the idea that parents should let kids sort out their sibling conflicts themselves.

When I was a kid, my major sibling problem was that my sister kept coming into my room without permission even though my door was closed. I didn't feel safe changing clothes in my room because I never knew when she'd open my door. My parents wouldn't let me have a lock on my door, so I spent a huge amount of my childhood actually leaning against my door just so my sister couldn't barge in. But my parents never did anything to stop her from barging in on the theory that we should learn to work out our own problems.

My parents had the biggest hand in creating the situation (they're the ones who chose to have two children and live in a house without locks on the bedroom door) and they were the ones who were most empowered to solve it (by making my sister leave me alone and/or putting a lock on the door), but instead they left it to me - without any particular authority or the ability to install a lock - to solve the problem (and in fact vetoed my proposed solution of installing a lock.)

Actually, that gives me a more succinct explanation of the phenomenon I'm trying to describe: the larger, more powerful party has the greatest hand in creating the situation and the greatest ability to solve the problem, but they're passing responsibility for solving the problem down to the smaller, less powerful party (who had less of a hand in creating the situation and less ability to solve the problem) on the basis that the problem was not 100% completely of the larger party's creation.

impudent strumpet said...

Risk shift is a good term! I'll have to remember that one! The thing I'm trying to coin here encompasses risk shift, but it's broader.

laura k said...

"the larger, more powerful party has the greatest hand in creating the situation and the greatest ability to solve the problem, but they're passing responsibility for solving the problem down to the smaller, less powerful party (who had less of a hand in creating the situation and less ability to solve the problem) on the basis that the problem was not 100% completely of the larger party's creation."

Excellent. Goes perfectly to the mortgage crisis, among other things.

I had a similar problem with my older brother walking into the bathroom *while I was taking a bath* specifically to upset me. I had to beg my parents to let me lock the door.

impudent strumpet said...

I've never been able to understand why siblings do that. Why is it worth their time and energy harassing someone who's staying out of their way rather than just going about their own life?

impudent strumpet said...

Adding an analogy for the concept to be described:

Suppose you have a household with one breadwinner. Maybe the other members of the household are unable to work (minor children, elders, people with disabilities), maybe they just found that one salary was sufficient and it's more convenient to have someone run the household full-time. It varies from case to case. At any rate, this household has always lived off the breadwinner's income and the breadwinner is the only person in the household who has ever earned income.

Then one day the breadwinner gets laid off. It's not their fault - in this economy, there are large-scale layoffs all the time - but the fact remains that the household now has no income.

So the breadwinner says "Okay, now it's time for everyone else in the household to earn money. It wasn't my fault I got laid off, so I shouldn't have to work any more!"

Now, it might not be a bad idea for the other members of the household to look for work to get them through this difficult time. And it's probably a good idea to work on a long-term strategy to enable more people in the household to earn a good living. But it's irresponsible and outright assholic for the breadwinner to dump this on everyone else without preparation and not to use their knowledge of the workforce to help smooth the transition.

laura k said...

A conversation at home just now gave me another example.

Authors are now expected to contribute huge amounts of time and effort to their own book publicity. Publishers used to do this as part of the book contract. Now unless the writer is already famous, they're lucky if the publisher does any publicity at all. But if the book doesn't get noticed, the chance of getting another contract is very poor.

Authors are expected to educate themselves about book publicity, or hire someone to do it, at their own expense.

But who knows more about book publicity and is in a better position to do it, the author or the publisher?

impudent strumpet said...

Another example, which I'm not terribly familiar with but drifted over into my twitter feed, is apparently there's a debate (??) about whether newspapers should be fact-checking statements made by public figures. And apparently the argument against doing this is that people should be able to decide for themselves about public figures' credibility.

laura k said...

Oh good lord.